The Binary Black Hole Model for Mrk 231 Cannot Explain the Observed Emission Lines [GA]

Mrk 231 is a nearby quasar with an unusually red continuum, generally explained as heavy reddening by dust (e.g., Leighly et al. 2014). Yan et al. 2015 proposed that Mrk 231 is a milli-parsec black-hole binary with little intrinsic reddening. The large-mass black hole experiences advection-dominated accretion, emitting little continuum, while the accretion disk of the small-mass black hole emits as an ordinary quasar, dominating the observed weak UV continuum and contributing all of the photoionizing flux. We demonstrate that this model is untenable for four reasons. (1) To produce the observed near-infrared emission lines, the equivalent widths would have to be ~100 times larger than typical values with respect to the photoionizing continuum, a situation that seems energetically unlikely. (2) We use the photoionization code Cloudy to demonstrate it is not possible to produce the HeI* emission line intensity for the observed HeI*/Pbeta flux ratios, even if the line-emitting gas intersects all of the photoionizing light. (3) We also show that while the HeI*/CIV line ratio is sensitive to the spectral energy distribution, the observed ratio is ~100 times higher than that of PHL 1811, an intrinsically X-ray weak quasar whose weak CIV line is well explained by its soft spectral energy distribution. (4) The observed continuum provides insufficient energy to power the thermal near- and mid-infrared emission. We find that the HeI*/Pbeta ratio is sensitive to the spectral energy distribution for a one-zone model. If this sensitivity is maintained in general broad-line region models, then this ratio may prove a useful diagnostic for heavily reddened quasars.

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K. Leighly, D. Terndrup, S. Gallagher, et. al.
Wed, 13 Apr 16

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